I have a confession to make, and I fear that my perfumista card is just about to be revoked, but here it is: I don’t like Frederic Malle’s Une Rose. Cue horrified gasps.
I know, I know. You don’t have to say anything. There’s already a sort of Greek chorus going back and forth in my head every time I wear it, and it goes something like this:
Une Rose is the most photorealistic rose in the world.
Yeah. It is. It is almost hyper-realistically real, especially in that first hour when it explodes onto your skin, all huge and red and dripping with dew. But here’s the thing. Despite the fact there are thousands of different cultivars of rose, about a hundred different species, and over four hundred separate chemical compounds or ‘flavonoids’ that make up a rose scent, my unsubtle mind persists in linking the smell of a damask rose with the bottle of cheap attar of roses my grandmother had on her vanity table for more than three decades. To me, the smell of the Bulgarian damask rose, when not mixed with other notes as in a chypre or oriental, will always be the old-fashioned smell I associate with closed-up front rooms, handkerchiefs scented with rose oil, pressed flowers, and powdery, grandmotherly bosoms.
Une Rose is the best soli-rose in the world. It’s the most ROSE rose ever.
That’s part of my problem. I find rose soliflores a bit boring. I love rose when it’s part of a massive oriental, like Amouage’s stunning Lyric for Women, in dark, slutty rose chypres, like Serge Luten’s weird and waxy Rose de Nuit, and smothered in dark patchouli, like Malle’s own masterly Portrait of a Lady. I like cheap and cheerful roses that are mixed with vanilla, like Tocade by Rochas, and roses battling it out with oud, like Black Aoud by Montale. I love roses, me. I really do. But Une Rose has taught me that I love rose only when it’s paired with something else. Une Rose is ROSE writ large. It’s rose rose rose. It’s too much rose.
But Luca Turin said that Une Rose is “a remarkable, angular, uncompromising fragrance endowed with the alarming beauty of an angry Carmen.” That sounds amazing!
It does sound amazing. However, look closely at the words he uses – “angular”, “uncompromising”, “alarming” and “angry”. His description is spot on, but whereas he sees these attributes as a plus, I personally do not. I can live with the blowsy, over ripe rose in the first hour. But there is a sharp, citric green edge to this rose that grows ever sharper after the first hour – probably the geranium and citrus notes. These sharp green notes seem to gather force with time, and Une Rose soon approaches the acetone hiss and sting of Chanel No. 19 EDT and the damp, poisonous powder feel of Guerlain’s Chamade or Gucci’s No. 3. It’s a bitterness you can almost taste. So, I see what Dr. Turin means about Une Rose having that angular, angry tone. This rose has thorns and they taste of acetone. But I’d rather not have my roses spank me, thank you very much.
Une Rose is so truffly!
First of all, we have to agree on the type of truffles we are talking about here, because it’s not clear to me whether it’s chocolate truffles we are talking about, or the kind that pigs dig up and cost a bazillion dollars to shave over your risotto. The reviews on Fragrantica and Basenotes show that nobody else is sure either – some people mention chocolate, some the other kind. Luca Turin never says which it is either, but mentions that this accord is earthy and creamy. In any case, I agree – there is a lovely earthiness and creaminess to Une Rose. But here’s my big problem – all this lovely creaminess is detectable only in the sillage of this perfume, meaning that it is the others in your wake that will get to enjoy this aspect, but not you. Putting my nose to my wrist, I could detect no earthiness or creaminess at all. In fact, Une Rose smells rather ugly up close and beautiful from afar. I think that it’s terribly bad form of a perfume to smell gorgeous and creamy to other people, but a tiny bit vile to you, don’t you?
Une Rose smells winey and deep! You love wine! You love deep!
Yeah, I love wine when I’m drinking it at ten O’ clock at night with my husband on our balcony, after the kids have been put to sleep (which rather sounds like we took them to the vet – I’m sorry). But I love it far less in the morning when I’m staring at the curdy dregs in our unwashed glasses. It smells of regret and furry tongues and short tempers. Une Rose has this sour, slightly tannic edge of wine dregs in last night’s glasses. It’s winey alright. Just the wrong kind of winey, that’s all.
Une Rose has amazing longevity and sillage!
Yes, it does. In general, you get what you pay for with Les Editions de Parfums de Frederic Malle. His fragrances have top-notch materials and are fabulously well-made. His Une Fleur de Cassie is the one fragrance that always renews my faith in the ability of niche fragrances to produce original masterpieces. But the fact remains that unless you love Une Rose – and we’ve established that I don’t – then massive longevity and sillage are not the boon they usually are. This is a rose that just don’t quit. Unfortunately for me.